Germany's Merkel feted at home for "win" on Greece
* German media praise Merkel's stance on Greece safety net
* Tough terms assuage public concern about bailout costs
* Some commentators worried about cost of Merkel's hard line
By Paul Carrel
BERLIN, March 26 (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel won widespread praise in Germany on Friday for playing hardball with her euro zone allies and securing tough terms for the financial safety net they agreed to create for Greece.
Dubbed the "iron chancellor" by one newspaper, she was also compared to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for the doggedness she showed at Thursday's talks, attaching strict conditions to the deal and not simply paying up to save Greece.
The praise was tinged with some concern that Merkel's hard line could erode Germany's negotiating power on other European issues but the general view that she "won" at the talks gives her a much-needed boost ahead of a key state election in May.
"Merkel has won against all odds -- against (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy, the European Commission and a large part of the chattering classes at home, which insisted that Germany remain the good `Europayer'," said Josef Joffe, publisher-editor of respected German weekly Die Zeit.
"The power play has done Europe a favour, putting the profligate on notice that they have to do their homework and so at last impose fiscal discipline rather than counting on Europe to keep them in the style to which they are accustomed."
The terms imposed by Merkel mean the mechanism to help debt-ridden Greece could be activated only under strict conditions and would require the unanimous approval of the euro zone, giving Berlin a veto. [ID:nLDE62N2R1]
The chancellor could ill afford to take anything other than a hard line on aid for Athens as she faced massive opposition to any bailout from a German public who regard Greece as having lived beyond its means for years while they have made savings.
Merkel needed to secure a deal she could sell at home, where she has to shore up support for her party ahead of a May 9 election on the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in which her centre-right coalition's upper house majority is at stake.
Polls suggest Merkel's conservatives and her pro-business Free Democrat (FDP) coalition partner could lose power in NRW.
Popular media lapped up her performance at the European Union summit in Brussels.
"Euro crash avoided! Financial markets breathe again. Merkel wins," ran a headline in the online edition of the mass-selling daily Bild.
The Greece agreement also adds to a string of accords Merkel has forged at summits, including compromises on climate change and the European bloc's reform treaty -- deals that earned her the nickname "Summit Queen" in her first term as chancellor.
But some commentators were concerned that by taking a tough stance with her euro zone colleagues over Greece, Merkel would find it hard to forge a consensus on other policy issues.
"The iron chancellor scored a victory but ... the bill for that will come," the Handelsblatt business daily wrote, questioning whether Berlin could now secure support for a German to take over at the helm of the European Central Bank next year.
"Where should the majority come from now for a German ECB president?" the paper asked.
(Editing by Michael Roddy)
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